The appellate authority under the RTI (Right to Information) Act of the Securities and Exchange Board of India comprising of Mr. Anand Baiwar adjudicated in the matter of Geeta Khattar v CPIO, SEBI, Mumbai (Appeal No. 4302 of 2021) dealt with an issue in connection with Section 2 (f) and Section 8 (1) (h) of the Right to Information Act, 2005.
The appellant, Ms Geeta Khattar had filed an application via RTI MIS Portal on the 20th of April, 2021 under the Right to Information Act, 2005. The respondent responded to the application by a letter on the 4th of May, 2021, filed by the appellate. After receiving a letter from the respondent on 4th of May, 2021, on her application, the appellate decided to file an appeal on the 9th of June, 2021. In her application, the appellate was seeking the copy of an Order which is issued by the Chief Vigilance official (CVO), SEBI under the Central Vigilance Commission, CVC case no. 17…5/2021/vigilance 5.
The respondent, in response to the query, informed that subject matter of application is under examination and has not reached a logical conclusion. In view of the same, disclosure of details related to the matter may impede the process and is therefore exempt from disclosure in terms of Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act, 2005.
The appellant filed the appeal on the grounds of that the information provided was incomplete, misleading or false information. The appellant, in her appeal, reiterated the query raised in her application.
For the queries, the appellate authority, Mr Anand Baiwar, made reference to the matter of Hon’ble CIC, in the matter of Manjit Singh vs. Central Public Information Officer, Central Vigilance Commission (Order dated May 08, 2017) referred to its previous order dated July 10, 2007 in case Nos. CIC/AT/A/2007/00007, CIC/AT/A/2007/00010 and CIC/AT/A/2007/00011, wherein it was held that “17. ….. the term ‘investigation’ used in Section 8(1)(h), in the context of this Act should be interpreted broadly and liberally. We cannot import into RTI Act the technical definition of ‘investigation’ one finds in Criminal Law. Here, investigation would mean all actions of law enforcement, disciplinary proceedings, enquiries, adjudications and so on. Logically, no investigation could be said to be complete unless it has reached a point where the final decision on the basis of that investigation is taken. In that sense, an investigation can be an extended investigation……..The respondents are, therefore, right in holding that it would be a misnomer to hold that investigation in matters such as this, the moment the Investigating Officer submits his report to the competent authority spells the end of investigation.“
While relying on the observations made in the said order dated July 10, 2007, the Hon’ble CIC, held that “In view of the above ratio, it is clear that the term “investigation” used in Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act has to be given a wider interpretation and will also include an enquiry conducted during disciplinary proceedings. Hence, the exemption of Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act would apply to the present case…… The Commission, in accordance with the above-mentioned precedents, is of the view that the information sought by the appellant cannot be disclosed as it is exempted from disclosure as per Section 8(1)(h) of the RTI Act, since the proceedings in the disciplinary case initiated against him have not reached a logical conclusion.” Further, the respondent has clearly informed that the subject matter of application is under examination and has not reached a logical conclusion. It is understood that disclosure of information prior to conclusion/completion of the proceedings would be premature to the process of examination and the disclosure of any information at any stage prior to such completion may hamper/compromise the objectivity of decision-making by the competent authority and may also harm the reputation of parties involved. In view of these observations, the appellate authority found no deficiency in the response.
In view of the above-made observations, the Appeal was accordingly dismissed since the appellate authority found that there was no need to interfere with the decision of the respondent.